Chapter 1 – Relationship With Spouse/Partner

Retirement can be a significant challenge to the stability of your relationship; without discussion and at least some areas of agreement, retirement increases the risk of divorce.  For decades you have divided, perhaps even shared, the various roles in your relationship.  You each know what to expect from each other and have come to rely upon each other to perform those duties contributing to your life together.  In most relationships one partner has been the major/principal earner, while the second partner has performed the domestic function – perhaps also working outside the home part- or full-time.  That scenario will likely change when one or both of you retire.  If you have not discussed and planned for that change, you are not ready for retirement.  Following are nine (9) topics to be discussed with your partner as you plan for and enter retirement.

Topic: Timing & Nature of Retirement      
With luck, circumstances will allow you to pursue the kind of retirement you’ve imagined, whatever that may be.  More likely, however, some factors will limit the range of options, whether financial, health, family, existing commitments, or some combination.  The challenge then becomes matching your objectives to the limitations. 
Are you both ready to retire?

Note to Men:  Recognize and be sensitive to the fact that YOUR retirement is likely to be the most de-stabilizing and challenging element to the relationship with your partner.

Topic:  Financial Resources and Anticipated Lifestyle
What kind of retirement can you afford?  Most people do not have sufficient savings or resources with which to retire, requiring delay of retirement, or supplementing your income.

Unless you expect a dramatic simplification and reduction of present lifestyle, plan for an income stream that is at least 60-80% of your current income; expenses in retirement are not reduced as much as you might expect.  Most of your expenses will remain about the same after retiring.

Will you remain in place, downsize, re-locate?  How strong are the ties and commitments to your present location?  Will you be leaving behind family and close friends?  Are you adept at meeting and establishing new friends?  If you have young grand children, keep in mind their proximity – if you want to stay connected.

If you envision relocating, thoroughly research the new area before committing to the move; spend time in the area during several seasons of the year so you know what to expect.   Consider renting first to ensure the new locale meets your expectations.

cf: Search on Retirement Planning: at CBS; FORBES magazine; US Department of Labor; MONEY magazine; AARP; Ernst & Young; USAA; Best Places to Retire; Relocating in Retirement

Topic:  Division of Labor and Chores
Whatever may have been your respective chores while pursuing your careers, they will certainly undergo some – if not major – change when one or both of you retire.  If one of you continues working, that partner can reasonably expect the retired mate to assume a more involved domestic role.  If you both retire more or less concurrently, recognize that you’ll suddenly be together all day!  For most couples, that is likely to strain the relationship.

Topic:  Togetherness and Separateness
There is such a thing as too much togetherness!  Plan for some fulfilling time alone to better enjoy your time together.

Do you have a Bucket List?  Share your ideas or ambitions of “things you’d like to do in this lifetime.”  Perhaps some may overlap, and you can pursue them together.

Are you in the “Sandwich Generation?”  If you have commitments or obligations to aging parents and/or children/grandchildren, your options are limited, and the retired partner may inherit a caregiver role.

cf: “Too Much Togetherness: Surviving Retirement as a Couple, by Miriam Goodman
cf: The Conversation Project
cf: The Sandwich Generation

Topic:  Intimacy
When retired you’re likely to be empty nesters; the dog has died; you have “time for each other” again.  Talk about your desires, needs.  Is the spark still there?  Might it need cultivation or re-starting?
Note to Men: This role may fall more heavily upon you.  Do your homework, be patient, challenge your imagination & creativity in your attentiveness and lovemaking.  Consider exploring sensual massage, Tantric Sex.  Try to become the lover you’ve always thought you were.
Topic: Family, Friends & Social Contacts
Odds are that you may have a combined family.  Retirement can present challenges or strains in relationships with your respective families and friends, especially if they expect more of your time and assistance “now that you’re retired.”

You may begin losing contact with work colleagues, hence, you should be thinking of and alert to developing other same-gender relationships.

Note to men: Do you have a male “confidante?” If not, or he is no longer available, develop a new one, or consider a personal diary: a place where you can express your private feelings, especially if you do not have this kind of dialog with your partner.  You NEED a place or venue in which to express your feelings, concerns, and dreams: they may never be shared with anyone, but you will benefit from identifying and acknowledging them.

Topic: Health: Options and Restrictions
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), your health to age 50 is largely a function of heredity; after age 50 it is largely a function of lifestyle.  In retirement, good health is at least as important as adequate financial resources; one without the other will seriously inhibit your quality of life.  Most major diseases have some causation in poor habits of diet, substance abuse, stress, inactivity or a combination.  It is never too late to make smarter choices about your health.

Note to Men:  Your longevity statistics are lower than your partner, but you can improve them significantly; it’s your choice and responsibility.

Topic:  Volunteering, Purpose & Meaning of Your Life
Chances are you’ve considered a number of volunteer activities during your working life, but never found time or opportunity to pursue them.  Now you can.  With no preferred options, the number and variety of volunteer activities from which to choose is virtually endless in terms of topic, challenge, commitment and geography.  Evaluate your talents and dreams; identify what gave you maximum fulfillment in your career, and seek ways to apply your skills to achieve similar fulfillment in totally different endeavors.  Again, you may find over-lapping interests with your partner and be able to pursue them together.

Volunteer opportunities can be local, regional, national or international, covering countless diverse activities.

cf: Seniorcorps;; Habitat for Humanity; veterans service; SeniorCorpsFosterGrandparents; volunteer vacations/Global Volunteers; hunger relief; disaster relief (Red Cross); docent/tour guide; political campaigns; legal advocate/International Senior Lawyer Project; Peace Corps; elementary school reading or math tutor; hospice volunteer, Court Appointed Special Advocate (for children in state custody), federal & state park volunteer; Special Olympics, food banks, bird or wildlife counters, Meals On Wheels, local theater or musical productions; etc.

Topic: Enrichment and Challenge
Unlike previous generations, you can reasonably anticipate living another one-third of your lifetime.  By husbanding your resources and maintaining decent health, “the world is your oyster.”   What you do with those years is a matter of circumstance and choice.  Without structure and choice, you can easily find yourself gradually enslaved by the daily trivia of a meaningless routine.
If you enjoy the challenge and enrichment of travel, do it while you’re able – meaning, sooner than later.  When mobility restraints set in, they are usually irreversible.  Travel organizations worth exploring include: alumni tours, Smithsonian tours, Road Scholar Program (formerly Elderhostel), Rick Steeves, Overseas Adventure Travel, Grand Circle, cruise lines, AARP, National Geographic tours, REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) tours, home exchanges … to name but a few.

Other enriching options include:
- University/college courses (for credit, audit, enrichment or a second career)
- Learning another language or a musical instrument
- Photography, astronomy clubs, MOOCs (Massive Open On-line Courses)

Retirement planning is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the life you have achieved together thus far – and to build on that relationship for the remaining one-third of your lives.

cf: “Changing Lanes: Couples Redefining Retirement,” Beverly Battaglia, 2008.

Good resource, expanding on the factors and options related to retirement planning.